Friday, January 28, 2011

Saint Saviour’s Day

Saint Saviour 720p from the found collective on Vimeo.

Hell, so they say, hath no fury like a woman scorned. I can get in a pretty pissy mood when I feel like it too, but that’s normally down to the really important stuff like missing Deal or No Deal or not getting enough mint sauce on my weekly chicken kebab. Anyway, what always makes me feel better though is discovering a spiffing (yep, I've been reading The Chap magazine again)new tune or artist and this week I proudly present, for your delectation and delight, Saint Saviour. If you’ve been watching BBC recently you’ll have heard her as the vocalist on Groove Armada’s ‘I Won’t Kneel’ track (used on the promo for BBC HD). Dig a little deeper and you’ll find she’s been busily crafting some really lush stuff of her own and Woman Scorned is the first proper fruits of her labour. It came out at the tail end of last year but passed me by (I was probably watching Deal or No Deal with a chicken kebab all over me chops). Yes, I am officially Uncle Slack. Here you go. Stick it on, pump up the volume and see what you think. I love it.

PS: Oh, if you’ve not heard the Groove Armada track either here it is. All part of the service.

Groove Armada ' I won't kneel' from Joe Randall-Cutler on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Irrepressibles...the second coming

Okay...advance warning time. Regular readers will know by now of my obsession with a band/group/collective called The Irrepressibles. Irregular readers (those with funny shaped heads, one leg shorter than the other etc) please read this, my review of their first Birmingham show from last year. I thank you. The Irrepressibles are, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting, beautiful, uplifting groups on the planet. Their unique fusion of lush orchestral pop, performance and presentation (they design their own costumes and lighting...sometimes just for particular shows) makes their concerts something really special. Unsurprisingly I’m not the only person to have fallen in L – O – V – E with them and now, after several years of honing their craft and wowing huge crowds across Europe, people are finally waking up to them over here too. If you’re in London this weekend they’re playing a show at the Barbican on Saturday night. If you’re anywhere near the Midlands they’re in the suitably opulent surroundings of the Town Hall on March 22nd. Trust me on this one. Buy your tickets now. Go and see them. If it doesn’t make you more than a little bit moist (I myself am moistening just thinking about the show)then there’s no hope for you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gwyneth Herbert's ‘Perfect Fit’

Perfect Fit - Gwyneth Herbert (Official Video) from Naim Edge on Vimeo.

Here’s something to warm your cockles (and let’s face it who couldn’t do with warmer cockles right now eh?). I don’t know much about the fragrant Ms Herbert but there’s a vague hint of the late great Kirsty MacColl here, coupled with a delightfully quaint feel that’s just so at odds with the world right now (bombs, recessions, murders,'Katie Price'). It’s as catchy as the flu but oh so much nicer, with a light n’jaunty little melody and lyrics so sweet they could make a lemon smile. Wrap yourself up in it and pretend the rest of the world’s just a bad dream...

Perfect Fit’s out on March 7th on Naim Edge

Friday, January 21, 2011

Anna Calvi-fragalisticexpialidocious

Anna Calvi "Jezebel" (Live) from Anna Calvi on Vimeo.

One of the BBC’s sounds of 2011 Anna Calvi hits the Hare & Hounds on 26th February as part of a small, but perfectly formed, UK tour. If her recent output’s anything to go by it promises to be a cracker. Just cop a listen to Jezebel. Hell yeah. Bringing a bit of a rockabilly flavour to the old Piaf classic Anna vamps it up in fine style. And you can’t beat a bit of vamping eh? Having supported Nick Cave’s lot, Grinderman (and there’s a touch of Cave on offer here) she reminds me a little of a goth Shirley Bassey...bear with me here...mighty, mighty vocals but with a bit of a dark twist. See? Just me again? Okay. Anyway, for my money she’s one of the better picks of 2011, even though she’s been around since 2006 (she was in a band called Cheap Hotel)...but we’ll gloss over that. The BBC do love pretending they’ve still got their finger on the pulse...bless ‘em. What next? George Formby on Zane Lowe? Probably...

Tickets for the tour are selling faster than Jordon gets hitched and that’s I’d get in quick if I were you (for the tickets I mean...not Jordon...that’s just wrong).

Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel / Ben Calvert and Hannah Lawson @ The Actress & Bishop, Thursday 20th January 2011

I do love a good cult artist. There’s something that warms the cockles of the heart about people who do what they do just ‘cos they love it...irrespective of whether they make shed loads of money along the way, win awards or get written about on dodgy music blogs...

Anyway, tonight there are two genuine ‘cult’ artists sharing a stage...more on them in a minute...but first up something of a local cult in the shape of opener, indie folker Ben Calvert. I’ve seen Ben loads of times before and, like the last bus of the night when it’s really pissing it down, it’s always a pleasure to catch him. Like Jeffrey Lewis Ben’s a fine observer and documenter of the trials and tribulations of modern life and there’s a slight touch of the Neil Hannons in his voice, that world weary but knowing air, that perfectly suits this material. With violin being expertly woven into the mix by Hannah Lawson new life was breathed into an old favourite, ‘Flee’, and used to fine effect on recent single the la-la-la lovely (but ever so slightly naughty) ‘Everybody Loves Lucy’...available to download now Ben advised us after ruing the move away from the physical musical ‘product’. However you take your Calvert make some room in your collection for him.

After gently warming us up it was time for the Jeffrey Lewis and Peter Stampfel show. Peter is one half of The Holy Model Rounders...a band that you might have heard of in passing but, like me, probably haven’t listened to very much. Formed in 1964 they’ve spent the best part of half a century producing all kinds of whacked out freak folk stuff (sample title ‘Boobs a Lot’ a homage to...well you do the math). Jeffrey Lewis is arguably better known here in the UK given his many and regular tours over the past decade or so and reputation for putting on frankly top notch gigs. The pair got together a few years back when Peter saw Jeffrey perform a track that namechecked the Rounders and voila...before you can say ‘nutty as a fruitcake’ here they are. Yep Peter is, and I’m sure he’d be the first to admit this, absolutely chuffing bonkers. Imagine an aging Groucho Marx lookalike possessed by the mind of a child genius with ADHD, wired up on acid, speed and Sunny D and you’ve got a fair idea of the full on Stampfel experience.

The signs were there when he came onstage and started to theatrically undo his belt. I was half expecting him to disrobe completely for that full on freak experience but it turned out he was only doing it to avoid his trousers falling down. He turned it into quite a performance though...not a bad opening number, I’d leave it in the set if I were them. What followed was an often bizarre mix of material from Jeff, the Rounders and Stampfel’s own eclelctic back catalogue coupled with the results of a frenzied three day recording session that spawned their new album. Some of it worked really well with set highlights including Jeffrey’s death pondering ‘Whistle Past The Graveyard’ and Peter’s homage caps, entitled ‘Bottlecaps Are Cool’. It turns out that Peter collects them. He has...10,000. Yes. I know. If you’re gonna be bonkers do it in style right? The song itself featured Peter making all sorts of random noises, whoops and hollers...a bit like Vic Reeves’ club singer. The guy’s so bloody loveable that it was a pretty endearing spectacle though, totally free from any pretence and with that childlike innocence that most of us lose at around the age of 7.

Between the two of them they got through an impressive number of other tracks, far too many to list here, with Jeffrey’s art being used to illustrate his droll talk sing lessons ‘French Revolution’ and ‘Pochahontas’. Now that’s how you teach history.

I learnt more from two minutes with Jeffrey than I did in ten years at school. As ever with Jeff’s shows there was plenty of chat, including his musings on a three sided single, welded together. It could never be played of course but that didn’t seem to bother him. Like bottlecaps it would just be cool. As the evening wore on Peter notched up the crazy a little, hamming it up for the audience who, judging by the applause, were loving it. After Jeff left the stage he remained up there for three more numbers (curfew be damned), including the maddest version of ‘Goldfinger’ you’re ever likely to hear and some track from 1942, one of 100 that he’s recording in his grand 100 best tracks of the last 100 years (one track per year...) project. At 72 years old he’s pretty well placed to pick ‘em too.

Okay so this wasn’t a regular Jeffrey Lewis gig and some of the stuff may have tested all but the most devoted freak folkie (a label that Peter clearly detests) but it was never anything less than entertaining. Any gig that includes an audience participation number called ‘Black Leather Swamp Nazi’ is alright by me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Josh Bray – Whisky and Wool

With its distinctly 70’s country / folk feel Devon born Josh Bray’s debut album invokes warm and hazy summer’s evenings, his simple guitar picking seemingly as effortless as a butterfly on the breeze. Ahhhh yes, it’s one of those albums that sends me all poetical again. Shot through with the spirits of Nick Drake and James Taylor it’s an easy album to get into and, like many current folk releases, there’s something reassuringly familiar about most of the tracks on offer. If that sounds like damning with faint praise it ain’t meant to. In fact it’s a sign of the quality of the material, playing and production that this release could sit pretty comfortably alongside other ‘classic’ albums of the country rock/folk genre.

Whilst the high standards never really slip there are one or two tracks that really stand out. ‘Hard Living’s’ probably the most country tinged song...and it’s a bit of a rocker too when it kicks in. There’s a touch of Lynyrd Skynyrd about it, making a nice break from the more chilled out folk feel of much of the rest of the album. ‘Indian Gin’, another track with more of a country rock feel, is the other highlight, its reversed guitar effect lending it a bit of a woozy psychedelic quality that adds an extra dimension to Bray’s musical palate. Like both ‘whisky’ and ‘wool' this is one album that leaves you with a nice warm glow all over.

Whiskey and Wool is out on 7th March on NewTide Records.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Jerusalem / The Last Republic / BabyTwin @ The Flapper, Saturday 15th January 2011

The first gig of the year is always a bit of a struggle. Having consumed my own bodyweight in dead poultry, Bailey’s, Port, crates of chocolate and various sacks of salted snacks it’s frankly a miracle that I’m still alive.

Happily BabyTwin are on hand to ease us back in the saddle. They’ve got a bit of a secret weapon too, in the shape of flautist (and backing vocalist) Becki. I’m always stupidly impressed by any band that dares break free from the constraints of the holy trinity of drums, guitar and keyboards and the flute’s one of those instruments that really tickles my fancy...I guess you can blame Jethro Tull for that one. Much of the Twin’s material is emotional and introspective, with lead singer Joseph putting in a particularly heartfelt performance against a pleasingly soothing acoustic backdrop. The fact that he looked like the kind of dude who might well play in a death metal band (given some of the chord structures I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a ‘rockier’ background) added a nice juxtaposition (yep, I’ve been reading the dictionary on the loo again) between the sweet sounds coming from his mouth and the more rugged image. Grrrrr. A great opening performance from yet another (new to me) impressive local band.

The Last Republic, clearly have their eyes set on stadium glory given their penchant for the slightly bombastic U2 style anthems that I’ve been listening to online. Tonight it was a lot more stripped back though (just the singer and keyboardist) placing more emphasis on the vocals. There’s more than a touch of the Bono’s to the singer’s voice and it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to imagine him belting out this stuff to 100,000 people somewhere. In the more intimate environment of The Flapper’s cellar (and with the stripped back feel) it worked well enough but, having heard the recorded versions of some of these tracks I couldn’t help yearning for the full fat variety from time to time.

Finally My Jerusalem. Nope, not a Christian rock act ( but instead something of a US indie supergroup featuring a bit of the Polyphonic Spree (although to be fair isn’t everyone on planet earth in the Spree?), one of The Twilight Singers and a Great Northern-er amongst others. The group’s fronted by singer / songwriter Jeff Klein...a man blessed with one of those smokey, late night bar kind of voices and a refreshingly world weary perspective. Here to promote their debut album ‘Gone For Good’ My Jerusalem seem to have somehow slipped beneath the radar of the tastemakers over here and, judging by the quality of tonight’s show, they've been criminally underrated up to now. The fightback starts here people. God this was a fucking great performance. Recalling Eels at their best, with a dash of Gram Parsons, a slice of Dennis Wilson and a scattering of lush orchestration it’s a brilliant but subtle fusing of genres that only musicians at the top of their game could really pull off this well. Take the second number of the night, ‘Sweet Chariot’, the one that that probably showcases My Jerusalem at their very best. Kicking off with some military style drumming and a slightly melancholy trumpet this rallying call of a track saw Jeff screaming up a storm like a Southern preacher performing a particularly tricky exorcism. Go listen to it now. If it’s not the best thing you’ve heard in ages then I’m Sarah Palin’s g-string. And I’m not. So there.

I thought this was going to be the highlight of the night, but it wasn’t. Track by track Jeff and the band pulled us into their world of hard knocks, broken hearts and unfulfilled dreams. The short but bittersweet ‘Love You When You Leave’ is arguably one of the best anti-love songs ever written, ‘Valley Of Casualties’ takes a well aimed swipe at the self imposed misery most people seem to subject themselves to and ‘Farewell’ is a loping lament to those who’ve passed away but not passed from our memories. There’s a quiet dignity to it all and a ‘kicking against the pricks’ attitude that keeps everything from straying into self pity. It’s a fine line that Jeff and co tread but somehow they get it just right, making the whole night a deeply uplifting experience rather than a lesson in wrist slitting. Wise enough to know how the game goes but honest enough to refuse to play it the set was short on chat except for an explanation that the band would pretend to go offstage so we could whoop and holler for an encore which they would, of course, play. I didn’t need much encouragement. I’m going out on a bit of a limb here...and this might be the first gig of the year...but what the hell, you know what, I really can’t imagine many topping it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What’s Flapper-ning?

Yep, the ‘hilarious’ puns never stop here eh? the spirit of encouraging more folk to explore one of the perhaps less obvious (but one of my favourite) music venues in Birmingham here’s a trio of dates at the legendary Flapper. Hell yeah! Whilst this won’t be of much interest to my loyal readers across the world (hello Bogata...a big shout out to my Tobago massive) if you’re not anywhere near The Flapper think of it as a gentle prompt to check out what’s going on in your neck of the woods. The chances are that someone, somewhere near you is putting on some great stuff...

Anyway, January 22nd sees Killer Yogi take to the floor with support from Jester, Romans and Sylvia (with a DJ set from Johnny Foreigner!). On the 28th January you've got Conquistadors, the hotly tipped Blacklister, God Damn and Sperare (with Shapes DJ-ing) and on the 23rd February The Flapper goes Gay For Johnny Depp (well you would, wouldn’t you?). If you haven’t heard on any of these bands yet...well that’s kind of the point. Suffice to say it’s all going to be loud, sweaty and positively life affirming. Now you don’t get that from a night on the sofa eh...unless you’re getting down and dirty with a jar of peanut butter and a variety of root vegetables. Just me? Oh...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pocket Satellite ‘Paper Aviator’ EP

New music and here’s a folky pop treat in the shape of Pocket Satellite and their new EP Paper Aviator. Forged in the city of Sheffield they’re a five piece with a natural gift for a nifty melody and a ‘cute as a sack of fluffy pink kittens in flannel pyjamas’ feel (now that’s cute). Of course the whole folk / pop crossover thing’s pretty hot right now and Pocket Satellite get the balance just right especially on the EP’s two standout tracks, ‘Rocks in My Shoes’ and ‘Man On A Boat’ which manages to be both twee (no bad thing in my book) and a bit of a singalong party track at the same time (okay...I don’t go to many parties but I can imagine drunkenly bouncing around with my arms around a random stranger to this one). Add some great male / female harmonies, lush strings and oodles of plinky plonky glockenspiel all over the place and it’s pretty much guaranteed to warm even the coldest of January hearts.

Pocket Satellite’s Paper Aviator is out next week (I think) and available from the band’s very own web shop thingy... a free kitten in flannel pyjamas with every copy...possibly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Exclusive interview with Jeff Klein from My Jerusalem!

Hailing from New Orleans and featuring members of The Polyphonic Spree, The Twilight Singers, Bishop Allen and Great Northern, My Jerusalem are something of a cool indie supergroup. A relatively new name they made their live debut in 2009 and now, in support of their cracking debut album ‘Gone For Good’, they’re over here in the UK. Being a jolly nice chap the band's lead singer Jeff Klein spared me a few minutes of his time to exclusively chew the fat about everything from Trent Reznor’s bowel movements through to butter based fan tributes. You don’t get that in NME do ya eh?

Just for people who haven’t heard the band before how would you describe your sound?

Edgy Southern Gospel Orchestral Rock for lonely people to make out with their hand to.

Why not eh...It’s what hands are for. Er..anyway...pinning you down here, what’s the definitive (up to this point at least) My Jerusalem song...and why?

Sweet Chariot I would say is our most beloved song it seems. It really has a great energy to it. Its probably our favorite one to play live as well. There is a rawness to it and it feel victorious. Our Eye of the Tiger.

A cracking video too. A lot of you are obviously involved in other groups, is My Jerusalem a side project or do you see it becoming more of a full time thing?

My Jerusalem is our main focus. It’s a large group of people so if some of us are busy there are usually others that can take the wheel. It’s an artist collective of sorts, I suppose.

What’s your view of the music industry these days? With the rise and rise of the internet is it getting harder or easier to build a decent fanbase and make a living as musicians?

The internet takes all the mystique out of being a rock band actually. It’s sorta sad. I dont want to read about Trent Reznors bowel movements via Twitter. That being said it has its ways of making a whole world accessible, but it seems to happen all too fast. Bands that rise overnight, disappear just as fast it seems. Seems like so much white noise. I don’t know. Bands used to have to tour and become great before anyone knew them. Now bands play to tons of people on their first tour if they’re hyped right. And then they suck live.

Wise words. Who are you listening to right now?

A lot of Harry Nilsson, Deerhunter, Arthur Russell, The Antlers, Julian Cope... Other than that we listen to a lot of our friends records it seems since someone is always working on something.

Is there anyone around that you’d particularly like to collaborate with?

There’s a million folks we'd love to have involved. Anyone from Brian Eno to Thurston Moore to Tina Turner. We love music and expanding our boundaries.

If you had to cover just one song in a set what would it be?

Everyone would say something different. I’d probably say something like Whole Wide World by Wreckless Erik or Something like The Grass Roots doing Live For Today. Maybe Juliet by Neil Diamond...or 2 Live Crew

What’s the strangest thing a fan’s ever given you?

A Mt Rushmore style sculpture of the band made out of Butter (it looked nothing like us, but tasted spot on.)

Wow. Your very own butter based tribute....impressive...bonkers but impressive. What’s your favourite post gig drink?

Any drink with Bourbon and Bitters is alright with me.

Finally, what’s next for the band this year?

Tour, tour, tour, tour, tour, record, tour, write, tour, shower, eat, tour , tour, sleep...

And eat your way through all that butter too I guess. Cheers Jeff!

Catch the band touring the UK from this Friday at the following fine establishments:

Fri 14 Bristol, Start The Bus
Sat 15 Birmingham, The Flapper
Sun 16 Glasgow, Captain’s Rest
Mon 17 Manchester, Night & Day
Tues 18 London, Borderline

PS: You can keep up to date with Trent Reznor's bowel movements at

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jeffrey Lewis at The Actress & Bishop! Live! Next week!

Another cracking gig tip for you if you’re anywhere near Birmingham on the Thursday 20th January (and one I’ve only just found out about). Anti folk behemoth and comic book superstar Jeffrey Lewis is playing The Actress & Bishop (he’s touring the UK too...check press for details...actually, don’t...visit his website instead...what is this 1985 or something?)

As if that wasn’t enough he’s supported by a true psych folk legend, Peter Stampfel of the Holy Model Rounders. Hell yeah. Check this shit out. Brilliantly bonkers.

Last, but by no means least, you’ve got Birmingham’s very own Ben Calvert...all for the bargain price of a mere £8. I’m not sure if there are any tickets left now but it’s worth a try.

Lúnasa at The Public

Amongst the many fine acts on display at last year’s Moseley Folk Festival were a band called Lúnasa. I’d not heard of them before but they got my leg twitching like Michael Flatley having a stroke...which is no mean feat/feet. They mainly play traditional Irish folk music...and if that sends you scurrying for your Lady Gaga mixtape fair enough, but even if your idea of hell is anything remotely to do with folk music, trust me, they're well worth seeing. Think jigs and reels, late nights in backstreet Dublin boozers and a several hundred years of magical musical tradition all served up by a bunch of world class players who’ve become one with their chosen weapons of choice. It’s as rich and satisfying as a pint or two of the black stuff and infectious enough to get Stephen Hawking up and dancing (well...almost). Happily if you’re anywhere near West Brom you don’t have to fly Ryan Air (bring your own seat, fuel, pilot etc) to see ‘em either, they’re playing The Public on Thursday 10th February. Slàinte!

Friday, January 07, 2011


Okay, maybe HMV’s demise is some way off still but it’s pretty clear that its days as a national music retailer are numbered. Whilst I feel sorry for the staff and suppliers who’ll get binned in the aftermath (hell, I’ve been ain’t nice) the end of HMV might just offer some of the remaining independent music shops a little hope by driving those few mad souls who still like a physical ‘product’ through their doors. We’re clearly entering the last stages of the music shop meltdown, with the vast majority of people buying/streaming/nicking music online and a small but hardy bunch of purchasers who still crave that limited edition vinyl release or the 16 CD 4 DVD Ultimate Edition of Landscapes’ seminal ‘From The Tea Rooms of the Hell Holes of Uranus’. It’s unlikely that ANYTHING will ever be released in the future without it seeping onto the Intermess within a matter of hours so the only way that independent record shops (or indeed HMV if they still want to keep playing the game for a while) can survive is by flogging the collectable stuff that appeals to us fetishists AND giving punters something they simply just can’t get online. I’m talking everything from in-store appearances/signings through to having knowledgeable staff who are happy to chew the fat for an hour or two. Whilst some of the few record shops still around do some of this stuff – and although it kind of goes against the grain of everything I love about independent stores (the dust, the smell, the dark slightly forbidding atmosphere) – I guess they could do with making the places a bit more punter friendly. I’d certainly plump for a cafe / record shop over no record shop any day, especially as people seem far happier these days to fork out £3 for a coffee than £3 for a single (mad fools). Perhaps by giving people more than one reason to visit a shop you might just encourage more custom? Yep, it ain't rocket science. I’ve always been a little surprised that gig venues don’t do more of the merchandising thing too. I don’t just mean a shabby merch desk at the end of the night, I’m talking a full time ‘shop’ (again probably bolted on to a wi fi cafe/bar area). They’re paying rent on these places, they might as well get something out of ‘em during the day or on nights when there aren’t any gigs on eh?

PS: The last time I looked Birmingham’s city centre’s only surviving record shop, Swordfish (Temple Street), was still there so pop in and show them some love if you’re anywhere near.

PPS: I promise I won't use RIP in the heading of the next post...

PPPS: Unless someone else pops their clogs...

PPPPS: Never heard of Landscape? Cop a load of this...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Mick Karn RIP

Good grief. Hot (or maybe that should be cold) on the heels of the death of Gerry Rafferty comes news of the passing of Japan’s bass genius Mick Karn. Jeez. You know you’re getting old when people in the bands you grew up with start passing on. Japan were just soooo achingly cool back in the day, arguably the coolest of all those early 80’s groups (although they formed as early as 1974...albeit it in more of a glam punk guise) and I spent many happy hours wallowing in their particular brand of art pop pretending I was all sophisticated. It's difficult to know which track to pick to pay tribute to Mick but this one's always been a favourite. Enjoy.

Gerry Rafferty RIP

Sad news hits the Aid today with the death of Gerry Rafferty. MOR classics don't get much better than Baker Street and, lest we forget, he was part of Stealers Wheel too. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...wise words. Speaking of clowns and jokers this year's (much like 2010) has started off with my PC going on the blink. Awesome. It's less than 12 months old and, on top of making a loud buzzing noise it's now started freezing whenever it feels like it. I know that manufacturers design this stuff to break but 12 months? Seriously?

Anyway...if the Aid is a little quiet for a while you'll know why...I'll be doing battle with the good folk at PC World. Time to chill out with Gerry again methinks.

PS: Happy New Year and all that jazz!